Increasing Awareness Among Athletes

Awareness is an important skill for athletes to help them achieve optimal performance levels. With greater awareness, they can better understand themselves and also have improved concentration and self-control. 

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Self-awareness involves refined knowledge of oneself (independent of others). Consequently, self-awareness is central to one’s personal and social meaning of self. How others perceive us is known as ‘other awareness’, and knowing how our behaviors impact others, and vice versa, how others’ behaviors affect us, can help cultivate our own self-awareness. When you think about it, the idea of self-awareness separates us from other species.

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In sport, when an athlete has low self-awareness, it’s usually due to excessive concerns with arriving to a specific result (Williams & Krane, 2021). It may even cost an athlete by letting negative thoughts or emotions spiral out of control and getting distracted. When an athlete has high self-awareness, they can become more aware of their optimal performance state. Higher awareness can also help an individual have more accurate self-evaluations, which can assist an athlete to better know their strengths and limits. Unfortunately, many athletes lack self-awareness. However, awareness is something that can and should be developed. Here I will talk about monitoring awareness, reflective practice, paying attention and mindfulness and positive self-talk. 

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When an athlete has high self-awareness, they can become more aware of their optimal performance state. Higher awareness can also help an individual have more accurate self-evaluations, which can assist an athlete to better know their strengths and limits.

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To help increase awareness and understand athletes better, the first step is monitoring mental aspects of their training and performance. Also allowing athletes to check in regularly, gives them an opportunity to focus on their own thoughts or feelings (Williams & Krane, 2021). An example would be using a performance feedback sheet for athletes. On my feedback sheet for powerlifters, some of the questions include:

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  • How did you feel about your performance today?
  • What obstacles did you encounter and how did you manage them?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What is something that you could have improved?
  • Name one thing you learned from your performance today.

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Without providing the entire feedback sheet to you, I will tell you that it includes details on their specific stress levels, what mental training techniques were used and exact feelings at different points leading up to and during meets. 

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The other way I monitor their self-awareness, is through reflective practice in training logs. I highly recommend that each training session should note any thoughts or feelings regarding their session that day. Aside from their nutrition and sleep, we can rank stress levels and leave notes about how they feel about their session that day. This not only helps me understand how they are feeling, but it’s also helpful for them to look back on. If they had high stress and ended up having a poor session, this gives them the opportunity to reflect and see how they could improve for next time. Giving athletes the opportunity to elaborate on their stressors, we can monitor them more closely and make adjustments as needed.

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In sport psychology, self-talk is a method we can use to enhance self-awareness. Self talk requires it’s own post, so I will dive into that intervention another time. And lastly, athletes can be more aware and focused when they learn to pay attention and are mindful. Practicing attention and mindfulness can be achieved through several different methods. It’s important to note that methods should be tried slowly and certain techniques will be more effective than others for different situations. 

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Ultimately, self-awareness is an essential requirement for sporting excellence, and if you are a coach or athlete, it’s something that should be incorporated in your sport environment.

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Happy Training Friends!

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Xo,

Coach Nat

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References:

Krane, V. & Williams, J. M. (2021). Increasing Awareness for Sport Performance. Applied Sport Psychology (8th ed, pp.176-185). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education.

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